Birth, Bris, and Baby Naming

The Jewish ritualizing of birth is nearly as old as Judaism itself. Brit Milah (covenantal circumcision ceremony) is first mentioned in the Torah, as a sign of the relationship between God and the people of Israel. It says in the Torah: “Every male among you shall be circumcised…it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you” (Genesis 17:11). The parallel biblical covenantal ritual for girls is what is known as a naming ceremony in which the child is presented a name in Hebrew.

The Talmud records the custom in ancient Israel of planting a cedar tree when a boy was born, and a cypress tree when a girl was born (Gittin 57a). In recent years, additional rituals have been developed to acknowledge the birth of both boys and girls, focusing on the elements of covenant and naming. Click here to read more about the history of these birth rituals.

When a Brit Milah or Brit Bat takes place, the child’s Hebrew name is formally announced and given (according to traditional custom, for the first time) during that ceremony. Sometimes, a child will simply be “named” during the Torah service of morning services (often on Shabbat).

The custom of naming a baby after a deceased family member is the practice of Ashkenazi Jews; Sephardic Jews often honor living relatives by naming a child after them. In addition, there are many other traditions and inspirations governing the naming of Jewish children, including using biblical names, names popular in modern Israel, and names associated with a holiday or Torah reading near the child’s birth. Many parents give their child a “secular name” (which appears on the birth certificate and may be used in non-Jewish contexts) and a “Hebrew name” (which for Ashkenazic Jews may also be Yiddish). Others prefer to give their child a Hebrew name by which they may comfortably be known in all aspects of their life.

Lifecycle rituals, including circumcision, are transformative. Not only does the boy emerge physically different after the Brit Milah, but he is also transformed from baby to covenanted Jew; from an infant with no history, to a person with a past and a future.

Circumcision (milah), to be ritually performed after eight days following birth, is a cutting away of the foreskin of the penis. This is usually done in the context of a religious service of covenant (brit) in which the boy is also given his Hebrew name.

There are no special rules about the place in which the rite is to be carried out. The following roles are typically found in a Brit Milah ceremony:

Sandak holds the baby on his lap while the baby is circumcised.

Kvatterin is the “godmother” who takes the baby from the mother to the Kvatter.

Kvatter is the “godfather” who takes the baby from the Kvatterin to the Mohel.

Mohel is the ritual circumciser who has been trained in the physical procedures of circumcision and who understands the religious significance of the circumcision.

After the ceremony, there is a festive meal, and special prayers are recited in the grace after the meal blessing the parents, the infant, the mohel, and the sandek.

Room rentals are based on your number of guests and the availability of the space.

Rentals Include:

  • All rentals include both a chapel space for the service and a second space for the luncheon. It is a three-hour rental in total for ceremony and meal.
  • The rental includes the spaces, tables, chairs, linens (gray or gold), a coffee/tea/ice water set-up, and security.
  • We can also supply the kiddush cup with wine for the ceremony upon request.
  • The building is generally closed on Sundays, but can be opened for an additional $950 opening fee.

The service will be in either the Schnurmacher Chapel (200 people) or the 5th Floor Chapel (100 people) based on your booking needs.

Room Name Room Capacity Rental Fee (member/non-member)
Leader Board Room 60 people $800 / $2,000
5th Floor Event Space 72 people $800 / $2,000
Eisner Auditorium 100 people** $800 / $2,000
  • Catering—please see our list of approved caterers for options. You are welcome to do a drop-off; however, the caterer must send someone to set up the food.
  • The family or caterer are responsible for paper goods, decorations, and challah.
  • Mohel—you are welcome to use any mohel you choose; we have a list of a few our clergy have worked with, available on request.
  • Strollers are not permitted in the building for security purposes. Please plan accordingly.
  • Rooms may not be booked until the baby is born.
  • The mohel should be your first phone call, to set the time of the Bris. After that, please email Rachael Evans at revans@crsnyc.org to book the space.

Baby Naming ceremonies are generally done in conjunction with our Friday evening and Saturday morning Services.

To reserve a date for the ceremony, you will need to speak to the Rabbis’ study. They will explain the details of the ceremony and what information is needed. Please contact Jessica Adducchio at jadducchio@crsnyc.org.

If you would like to have a reception following the ceremony, you can rent a room in the Synagogue, based on availability, through the CRS Operations Office.

Room Name Room Capacity Rental Fee (member/non-member)
Leader Board Room 60 people $1,300 / $1,600
5th Floor Event Space 72 people $1,300 / $1,600
Eisner Auditorium 100 people** $1,300 / $1,600

The various rooms for a luncheon and rates are as follows:

Rentals include tables, chairs, linens, and a coffee/tea/ice water set-up. Please see our list of approved caterer for options.

*The building is generally closed on Sundays and can be opened for an additional $950 fee.

For more details concerning a room rental, or if you have any questions, please contact Miriam Baron at (646) 454-3043 or mbaron@crsnyc.org.

* Please note: if you are expecting more than 100 guests, there is a $300 fee for extra security